Take this quiz to find out if you're a communicator or a
You and your dog speak different languages. Dogs have
millions of years of evolutionary baggage telling them that digging in the
flower bed is the proper way to store food and that barking is a vital form of
communication. Your job is to explain that here in the land of naked apes,
certain behaviors don't always go over well, while others, like darting out
into the road, are downright dangerous. The question is, are you educating your
dog like a kindergarten teacher or a drill sergeant? Take this quiz to find
1) The Western you're watching on TV has just gotten
to the big shootout scene when Rover starts whining at the door. You:
a. promise yourself that
SOMEDAY you'll see this movie all the way through as you hop up and let Rover
out.b. ignore Rover until the
next commercial, then let him out. Getting up now just rewards him for whining,
which you are trying to teach him to stop doing anyway.c. tell Rover "No."
He needs to learn he can't go in and out every five minutes.
Answer: a. HELLO! Rover is VERY politely telling you
he needs to go outside. (So what if he just went out five minutes ago, he
obviously forgot to do something important!) Ignoring Rover's whine is like
ignoring someone's "please" and forces him to move on to something "rude"
like scratching the door or having an "accident." If you ABSOLUTELY
can't let Rover out right away, at least acknowledge him: "I hear you,
buddy—I'm coming." Telling him "no" is the cruelest of
all—imagine telling someone that you have to go the bathroom and they say "no!"
Tell it to your bladder!
2) Maggie is a confirmed "chow hound."
Every night at dinner, she hovers at your chair, drools on your knee, and tries
to "steal" food off the table. What should you do?
a. Slip her some tidbits
every few minutes—she's so pathetic!b. Never give her scraps;
this only encourages her and makes her want "people" food instead of
dog chow.c. Tell her to lie down and
stay until dinner is over, then reward her with scraps.d. None of the above.
Answer: c. Go ahead and give poor Maggie some variety
in her life and feed her nutritious table scraps, just make sure you feed
scraps at the RIGHT time. First, always feed Maggie her dinner BEFORE yours. If
she still comes begging, ask her to lie down and stay. Teaching Maggie to wait
for her tidbits calmly is really kinder than keeping her anxious by
sporadically slipping her food. (Often, dogs doze off on a down/stay, which is
as relaxing as it gets!) Slipping Maggie morsels during dinner TEACHES her to
beg, unfairly setting her up for a scold when you decide that paw-swipes at
your arm are no longer cute, or when you're entertaining dinner guests.
3) Fido knocks the wind out of everybody he meets
with an enthusiastic pair of paws planted firmly on the chest. How can you stop
him from jumping?
a. Step on Fido's back feet
so he learns to associate discomfort with jumping up.b. Give visitors food
treats and instruct them to tell Fido to sit when he greets them.c. Put your knee up as Fido
jumps, so he hits the knee instead of you.d. None of the above.
Answer: b. Stepping on Fido's back feet is
unnecessary and painful and could cause injury. Same goes for kneeing. Fido is
jumping on people because he is happy to see them; do you really want him to
associate being friendly with pain? Why hurt and confuse Fido when asking him
to express his greeting in a different way, such as sitting, gets the message
4) Princess is busy chewing on a tasty sofa cushion.
You walk into the room and wail, "Princess!" She looks up, drops the
cushion, and bounds over to you, joyfully wagging her tail. You:
a. tell her she's a bad dog
and give her a stern lecture on the high cost of sofa cushions.b. turn around and ignore
her.c. bite your tongue and
give her a pat and a hug.
Answer: c. This is perhaps the most important rule
you can learn about communicating with your dog: NEVER, EVER, EVER SCOLD A DOG
WHO COMES TO YOU WILLINGLY—no matter how long she dawdled, no matter how bad
she was mere seconds before. If Princess had ignored you and kept right on
chewing, then saying, "No! Chew on THIS," as you took away the pillow
and handed her a toy would have been in order; but she didn't—she stopped her "bad"
behavior and came to you instead. Coming to you should ALWAYS be a thrilling
experience; scold her and she learns—not to stop chewing cushions—but that
coming to you isn't always such a great idea.
5) Benji is the Joan Rivers of dogdom. He barks at
EVERYTHING: the moon, the sun, dogs, cats, squirrels, cockroaches, dust mites.
How can you get him to quit that incessant yapping?
a. Give Benji a biscuit to
distract him.b. Sneak up behind Benji
and startle him with a swat him on the rump as you yell, "No!"c. Get one of those nifty
electronic collars that zaps Benji whenever he utters a peep.d. None of the above.
Answer: d. For starters, how come people can talk all
day, but one peep out of Benji gets a "shut up" from you? Benji is
barking because he's trying to tell you something—"Look out, here comes
that guy in the noisy truck!" or, "Hey, I'm lonely out here by
myself," or, "I'm terribly bored; can we go for a walk now?"
But what if you're not feeling particularly interested in
what Benji has to say about the trash truck at 7 a.m.? Hitting Benji and
shouting at him is cruel and unfair—you're punishing him for something he
thinks is very important—alerting you to intruders (an instinct you'll thank
him for if a burglar shows up!)
Electronic shock collars are no better: They punish Benji
indiscriminately (and painfully), plus they have a number of other drawbacks.
Dogs trained with shock collars and "electronic fences" may develop
fears or aggression aimed at what they BELIEVE is the source of that pesky
shock—kids riding by on bikes—whom Benji starts to chase and bark at until he
gets an unpleasant surprise—or the dog next door, who "administers" a
painful jolt every time Benji runs up to play (two confused and frustrated dogs
once killed a neighboring dog when he crossed the boundary to play). Dogs have
also been known to run heedlessly through electronic barriers in hot pursuit of
a squirrel or fleeing scary fireworks, then become terrified to cross back
So what can you do? Ask Benji to do something else! Start
making 7 a.m. on trash day practice-lying-down time until Benji gets the idea
that lying down is the thing to do when the garbage truck comes. (Give Benji a
treat only AFTER he does what you ask, not before, otherwise you will be
TRAINING him to bark!) You also may try teaching Benji the meaning of the word "quiet"
by GENTLY closing his mouth with your hands (no rough treatment, you're simply
showing him what "quiet" means) as you say the word. Remember, don't
lose your temper, holler, or otherwise abuse or over-use the "quiet"
command—let Benji talk sometimes!
6) While you were at work, Fluffy emptied the trash
can and created a lovely "mixed media artwork" of soda cans, melon
rinds, and shredded plastic wrap on the living room floor. What should you do
when you come home?
a. Bring Fluffy over to her
"masterpiece," rub her nose in it, and tell her "bad dog!"b. Lock Fluffy in the
garage every day until she learns her lesson.c. Act like Fluffy's
redecorating is no big deal and figure out where to put the trash can so she
can't get into it.
Answer: c. Naughty human! What Fluffy did was YOUR
FAULT for failing to supervise her! (OK, so you can't quit your job and watch
her all day but that's not HER fault!) Corrections work only as a warning
IMMEDIATELY beforehand ("Na-aah-aah, don't even think of touching that
trash can!") or while Fluffy is "in the act." If you wait until
hours (or even minutes) later, Fluffy will think she's being scolded for what
she's doing RIGHT NOW, such as being happy to see you!
The solution lies, as always, in prevention. Your best bet
is to stash the trash in a pantry or "kid-safe" cabinet. (Confining
Fluffy works for YOU, but it doesn't solve HER basic problems-boredom,
loneliness, and lots of energy.) Make sure Fluff has a variety of toys (and/or
companions) to keep her occupied and that she gets plenty of exercise,
particularly in the morning: A tired dog wants to sleep, not redecorate!
How'd You Score?
Give yourself a point for each correct answer.
0-2: Hey, Mussolini, lighten up! How about we yell at you
for getting sick on the carpet, smack you for talking to your friends, lock you
in the basement for raiding the refrigerator, and see how YOU like it!
3-4: You're not quite fluent in "dog-ese" yet, but
you're getting there. Brush up on your communicating skills by reading a book
like Dogs Behaving Badly by Dr. Nicholas Dodman or Don't Shoot the
Dog by Karen Pryor, and sign yourself up for a good training class.
5-6: Gandhi would be proud! Now go spend some quality time
with that lucky pooch of yours!
Win bonus points if you do the following:
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.